Our May hostess, Denise of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need from creole spices, homemade stock and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.
Luckily, we where allowed to use any gumbo recipe we had at hand. Although there were really good recipes provided, I grabbed my chance to cook a recipe I wanted to try even more - one by my all-time-favourite Jamie. I bought his book 'Jamie's America' some time ago. It was a little bit disappointing, and only a few of the recipes in it were appealing - one of them the recipe for a spicy meat gumbo. I added some crawfish to it and played a little bit with the spices and the result was amazing. The sauce had a creamy consistency (thanks to the sweet potatoes) and the smoky flavour was overwhelming. I guess my boyfriend loved it like I did because he licked the plate clean again ;)
Roux - Crucial to the gumbo is the roux. According to Besh, there are other thickeners besides flour for making their roux, but only a flour-based roux yields that traditional flavor. As for the fats in a roux, just about anything works. Rendered duck fat, chicken fat, or lard is preferred, but canola oil works nearly as well. Use a 1:1 ratio of flour to fat/oil. Heat the oil first and whisk the flour into the hot oil. This speeds up the process and yields a deep, dark chocolate-colored gumbo. Always add the onions first to the dark roux, holding back the rest of the vegetables until the onion caramelizes. Otherwise, the water in the vegetables will keep the onion from browning and releasing its sweet juices. Chef Link stresses that it’s essential to whisk the roux constantly as it cooks (but not so vigorously that you splatter the roux and burn yourself), because if even a small bit of flour sticks to the pot, it will become spotty, scorch quickly, and burn the entire roux. Also, Link advises against using a wooden spoon to stir the roux, until after the onions are added. A whisk allows the roux to pass through it and reduces the possibility of splashing, as well as getting into the sides of the pan.
Holy Trinity - As a culinary term, Wikipedia tells us the holy trinity originally refers specifically to chopped onions, bell peppers (capsicums), and celery, combined in a rough ratio of 1:2:3 and used as the staple base for much of the cooking in the Cajun and Louisiana Creole regional cuisines of the state of Louisiana, USA. The preparation of classic Cajun/Creole dishes such étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya all start from the base of this holy trinity. Similar combinations of vegetables are known as mirepoix in French cooking, refogado in Portuguese, soffritto in Italian, and sofrito in Spanish. While a "trinity" may refer to a generic representation of three cornerstone ingredients of a particular national cuisine, a trio of specific ingredients combined together to become essentially flavor bases, much like its original usage within Louisiana cuisine, are also called "trinities". This is often created by sautéing a combination of any three (or at least, the primary three ingredients in a more complex base) aromatic vegetables, condiments, seasonings, herbs, or spices.
|Gumbo - Spices|
Spicy Meat Gumbo
adapted from Jamie Oliver's 'Jamie's America'
for 2-3 persons
- 2 chicken drumsticks and breasts (with bones)
- olive oil
- 200g spicy cured sausage, sliced into 1cm rounds (I used Cabanossi)
- 3 thick slices of ham, diced
- 1,5 litres chicken stock
- 1,5 heaped tablespoons plain flour
- 1/2 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/2 green pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 yellow pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons of thyme (dried)
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- teaspoon allspice, freshly grounded
- Tabasco sauce
- alt and pepper
- one medium sized sweet potatoe, cut into small cubes
- 150g cooked crawfish
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a large pan over a medium to high heat and add a lug of olive oil and your sliced sausages and ham. Let them get some nice colour. Move your cooked sausages, the chicken and the ham to a plate and add the flour to the fat left behind in the pan.
Turn the heat down to low and stir. You want the roux to have a semi-loose, doughy consistency, so add a splash of olive oil if there isn’t a lot of fat. (You also want the roux to get really nice and dark, so have a bit of patience and keep stirring to stop it sticking. It might take around 10 minutes to get it to the right darkness. Peanut butter colour is a good starting point, but you can take it even darker if you prefer by stirring and cooking it for another 20 to 30 minutes.)
After about 2 minutes, add a splash more olive oil to the roux along with the holy trinity of onion, peppers and celery. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, then scrunch up your bay leaves to help bring out their flavours and stir these into the trinity mixture with the thyme leaves. Fry for 5 minutes, then add your garlic, cayenne, allspice, ham, sausages, potatoes and chicken. Give it all a good stir and fry for a couple of minutes.
At this point, add your stock. Stir and bring everything up to the boil. Let simmer for about 40 minutes until the meat is done. Remove the bones from the chicken parts, tear the meat into small parts and put back into your pan, add the crawfish. Use salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste. Serve with chopped spring onions.